Glaucoma can be an extremely debilitating condition and it is important that treatment is obtained as soon as possible.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a common eye condition which affects people of all ages but it is most common in adults in their 70s and 80s. It is a condition where the optic nerve becomes damaged and can lead to permanent blindness.
There are four main types of glaucoma:
Primary open angle glaucoma - This is the most common type of glaucoma and develops very slowly;
Angle closure glaucoma - This is rare and can occur slowly (chronic) or may develop rapidly (acute) with a sudden, painful build-up of pressure in the eye;
Secondary glaucoma - This occurs as a result of an eye injury or another eye condition, such as uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye);
Developmental glaucoma (congenital glaucoma) -This is rare but can be serious. It is usually present at birth or develops shortly after birth. It is caused by an abnormality of the eye.
What causes glaucoma?
Your eye requires a certain amount of pressure to keep the eye ball healthy and in the right shape. If the pressure is too high, it can cause your optic nerve to become damaged at the point where it leaves your eye. This can lead to loss of vision if not treated promptly.
What are the symptoms?
Glaucoma does not usually start with any symptoms but gradually develops over time. It is common that symptoms may take many years to develop and tends to affect the peripheral vision first. In many cases, glaucoma is only picked up during a routine eye test.
However, other symptoms could include blurred vision, seeing rainbow-coloured circles around bright lights. Very occasionally glaucoma may cause.
- Intense eye pain;
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Red eyes;
- A headache;
- Tenderness around the eyes;
- Seeing right around lights.
There are a number of quick and painless tests for glaucoma. An optometrist may carry out the following.
- Look at your optic nerve by shining a torch into your eye;
- Measure the pressure in your eye using a tonometry test – a small amount of pressure is applied to your eye using a warm puff of air. Another type of tonometry test physically checks the pressure using a small tool. You’ll be given anaesthetic eye drops first so you won’t feel anything;
- Measure your field of vision in a perimetry test – you may be asked to look out for a light that flashes in your side vision.
An optometrist may measure the eye pressure on separate occasions and make a referral for further treatment.
Treatment for glaucoma
It is not possible to reverse any loss of vision caused by glaucoma prior to diagnosis. However, treatment can assist in stopping your vision becoming any worse. Treatments will vary dependant on the type of glaucoma diagnosed but common treatments are:
- Eye drops – used to reduce the pressure in the eyes;
- Laser treatment – used to open blocked drainage tubes or reduce the production of fluid in the eyes;
- Surgery – surgery can be used to improve the drainage of fluid.
Cases we have been involved in
Compensation following a failure to monitor and treat glaucoma
Our medical negligence team successfully secured compensation for our client after his ophthalmologist failed to monitor his glaucoma. Following a diagnosis of glaucoma, our client was required to use eye drops. However the pressure in his eyes grew and due to a lock of monitoring, his treatment was not amended. Our client suffered a partial loss of sight and had to give up his hobbies. We successfully recovered over £45,000 for our client.
Johnathan Steventon-Kiy, specialist medical negligence lawyer, says:
“As the success story above demonstrates, failing to diagnose and/or treat glaucoma in a timely fashion can have catastrophic consequences for the sufferer. Our client was devastated that he had to give up his hobbies and even more so given that proper monitoring and treatment of his condition could have avoided the eventual outcome.”